Channel 4 has ordered a two-parter on the “myths and misunderstandings” of colonial history from Sandpaper Films.

The 2×60 series, Empire & Me (w/t) will see writer and broadcaster Sathnam Sanghera go on a very personal journey to unearth the roots that bind his country to its colonial past. Travelling across Britain and speaking to people from a variety of walks of life , Sathnam will look at the ways in which Empire is remembered and how this has created Britain’s culture and its politics.

Sathnam’s journey across the series isn’t just intellectual. His starting point is his own family’s experiences, their memories of racist signs in shops and of the anti-immigrant local MP Enoch Powell in Wolverhampton when they arrived in 1968.  Sathnam will explore what it means, as a child of immigrants, to live in the shadow of Empire. He also will ask how Britain, at a moment of enormous cultural and political division, might be able to come to terms with its past without hiding from its most troubling episodes.

Sathnam Sanghera, presenter says, ‘When I started thinking about this subject four years ago, the way imperialism has shaped modern Britain was an esoteric concern. But publication of my book Empireland this year has taught me that there’s massive interest in the question of how colonialism influences us. It’s an issue that seems to exercise and enrage politicians, teachers, academics, pundits, think tanks, talk show hosts and students all over the nation. I can’t wait to attempt to navigate the fevered debate on Channel 4.’

Henry Singer, executive producer at Sandpaper Films says, ‘We’re thrilled to be making this series with Sathnam.  It’s hardly a history series – Sathnam wants to drill down into empire to see if it’s at the root of so many recent divisive issues – BLM, Brexit, statues, even Covid.  We’re becoming increasingly polarised as a nation – does empire have something to do with it?’

Shaminder Nahal, Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 says, ‘What Empire means to us now is such a vital subject, and so hotly contested – but I don’t think anyone else is articulating how Empire has shaped pretty much everything about Britain now including – and most surprisingly – our state of mind, the way we think and feel about so much. I’m thrilled that this series is Sathnam’s second outing on Channel 4 and adds to our body of work that looks in a fresh and unflinching way at Britain’s past, in films such as The Unremembered: Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes, and Massacre That Shook the Empire.’

The series is produced by Sandpaper Films.  The executive producers are Susannah Price and Henry Singer.

Jon Creamer